Jan 19

Moyer better blues

This post is dedicated to a real ’49er …

  • Jamie Moyer, who turns 50 on November 18, signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies with an invitation to Spring Training. Not that my expectations would be sky high, but I would have been curious to see Moyer, recovered from Tommy John surgery, in a Dodger uniform in March.
  • Here, The Platoon Advantage needs only four degrees of separation to connect Moyer to Babe Ruth and makes the case for six degrees between Moyer and Cap Anson.
  • Want to know what potential Dodger bidder Mark Cuban is up to this week? Just trying to change the business model of TV distribution.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to Cuban this week about why he’s interested in the Dodgers. “It’s an iconic team,” Cuban said. “There’s only a few franchises like that. And it’s always better to buy a team like that when they’re down.”
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times does the most thorough look of anyone yet at the threat of Frank McCourt keeping possession of the parking-lot-infused land surrounding Dodger Stadium. Because McCourt’s agreement with MLB doesn’t require him to sell that land, he can use it as a bargaining chip to extract more purchase money, hang on to it and draw millions in lease revenue from it, or do the very thing we imagined he’d do when he first bought the Dodgers eight years ago, develop it.

    As I’ve said in the past, though there’s a risk that some group will buy the Dodgers without the land, no one with the sense of a bullfrog should be willing to take the risk of remaining beholden to McCourt after the sale. Pay the man up front and get him out of Dodge.
  • The Miami Marlins appear to be the choice to succeed the San Francisco Giants as the featured team on Showtime’s baseball documentary series, “The Franchise,” Jon Weisman of Variety reports.
  • Still more from the TV front: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal explores how long MLB Advanced Media will keep its digital operations separate from TV rights sales. Stakes are high.
  • Renowned baseball historian Robert Creamer gave a lengthy interview with Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. His biography of Babe Ruth was one of the first serious baseball books I ever read. Here’s a small Dodger-related tidbit from the interview:

    … I first became intensely aware of big league baseball in the summer of 1931, when I was nine. My big brother, who was six years older than I, took me to my first major league game, or games — it was a doubleheader between the old New York Giants and the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the old Polo Grounds on the banks of the Harlem River in New York, below the steep hillside known as Coogan’s Bluff. John McGraw was still managing the Giants and Wilbert Robinson the Dodgers, who were generally known as the Robins. Headlines would sometimes refer to the Robins as “the Flock, as in flock of birds. I’m not sure if team nicknames were technically formal at that time. If not they soon were. Both McGraw and Robinson ended their managerial careers in 1932, and the Robins nickname soon disappeared as “Dodgers” returned. The new manager was Max Carey, whose real name was, I believe, “Canarius.” One sportswriter, Tom Meany, bowing to Max, suggested the team’s new nickname be the Canaries, but it didn’t take. …

  • “Moneyball” won approval across the pond, nabbing nominations for Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the screenplay by Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin from the British Academy.
  • Our good friend Bob Timmermann wrote a terrific piece at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence about “L.A.’s Hall of Fame basketball coach who faded from memory,” Alex Hannum.
  • Timmermann also passes along this note: “RIP Patsy Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. … She was also the great-aunt of one Clayton Kershaw.” Tombaugh was 99.
  • Dioner Navarro, who got a guaranteed $1 million from the Dodgers after finishing 2010 with a .528 OPS and an awkward departure from Tampa Bay, will go to Spring Training this year on a minor-league contract with the Reds after finishing 2011 with a .600 OPS and an awkward departure from Los Angeles. (Remembering 2011: Dioner Navarro.)
  • Vagabond former Dodger draft pick Preston Mattingly has hooked a minor-league contract with his dad’s former team, the Yankees. Mattingly, 24, reached base 50 times in Single-A last year.
  • Vicente Padilla signed a minor-league contract with Boston. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation but could end up in the bullpen – health permitting, of course. (Remembering 2011: Vicente Padilla.)
  • Diamond Leung, former Dodger beat reporter for the Press-Enterprise, has been blogging on college basketball for ESPN.com but now will cover Michigan State hoops for MLive.com.
Dec 15

Remembering 2011: Dioner Navarro


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesDioner Navarro (47)

The setup: The Dodgers’ pre-Russell Martin hope for the future at catcher, Navarro was traded in 2006 with Jae Seo to Tampa Bay for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson.  He was 22 with a .759 OPS, but Ned Colletti found him expendable, thanks most apparently to concerns about his defense and excitement over Martin’s impressive debut. Coming back from a host of personal challenges, including near-death experiences for himself and his family, Navarro made the 2008 American League All-Star team but couldn’t break .600 in OPS the following two seasons, the last of which (2010) ended with his acrimonious exile from the Rays. It was not too much of a surprise that Colletti offered Navarro a return engagement in Los Angeles, but it was when Colletti guaranteed $1 million in the process.

The closeup: In the final week of Spring Training, Navarro suffered an oblique tear that kept him out until April 25, at which point he delivered a 2011 performance best described as sad, but not without its moments. He homered in his fourth game, went hitless in his next 18 at-bats, then had a 7 for 16 hot streak that included a walkoff RBI single in a 3-2 victory over Florida on May 27. (Don Mattingly had Navarro pinch-hit 10 times between May 14 and July 3; that was Navarro’s only hit.)

Strangely, three times Navarro had the only RBI in a 1-0 victory, making him only the second Los Angeles Dodger to accomplish such a feat in one year. He hit a game-winning homer in the bottom of the eighth June 19 against Houston. He hit a gapper to right-center to drive home Juan Uribe on July 9 after the Padres had no-hit the Dodgers for 8 2/3 innings. And he hit a seventh-inning homer into McCovey Cove off Tim Lincecum, of all people, to give Clayton Kershaw a 1-0 win at San Francisco on July 20. Pretty amazing for a guy who had only 34 hits and 17 RBI all year. He also had some defensive highlights: On June 24, he became the first catcher with two pickoffs and two caught stealings defensively in the same game since 1986.

With Rod Barajas having his own injury woes, Navarro actually racked up some playing time – 188 plate appearances between May 14 and August 21. But with barely a week to go before rosters expanded, the Dodgers cut Navarro loose on August 23, amid reports that his professionalism was seriously lacking. He finished his second Dodger career with five home runs, a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage.

Coming attractions: Navarro will still only be 28 next year, but he’s going to have to earn his way into a major-league contract if he wants one, probably through a non-roster invitation to Spring Training.

Aug 23

Dodgers replace Navarro with Ellis

Choosing not to wait until rosters expand September 1, the Dodgers have designated catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment and recalled A.J. Ellis from Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.

Navarro had a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 202 plate appearances for the Dodgers, throwing out 14 of 55 basestealers (25.4 percent). His performance had actually improved in recent weeks, with Navarro posting a .337 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances since Independence Day, and three times this year (on June 19, July 9 and July 20) he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger victory.

But overall, Navarro failed to justify the $1 million contract he signed Dec. 14, an attempt by general manager Ned Colletti to buy low on a 27-year-old one-time All-Star who had a .569 OPS from 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

The transaction gives the Dodgers an opportunity to take another extended look at Ellis – though his credentials as a low-power, high-OBP threat seem well-established. Ellis has a .364 OBP in the majors this year and a .467 OBP with Albuquerque.

Barring any offseason moves, Ellis and Tim Federowicz (recently acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade) are leading candidates to split catcher time in the Dodger starting lineup next year, though Barajas could return as a free agent if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his $3.25 million salary. Barajas has a .699 OPS and, remarkably, is second on the Dodgers in home runs with 12.

Navarro could return to the Dodgers in September if no team picks him up, but it seems more likely now that Federowicz will get his first taste of the majors then.

* * *

  • Not a lot of middle-of-the-order bats will be available this offseason, writes Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • St. Louis reacts, mostly negatively, to Tony LaRussa’s Monday managerial machinations. See here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • How did “Moneyball”  stay alive? Mark Harris writes about the film’s tale of survival for New York Magazine.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey enjoyed being in the St. Louis press box Monday.
Jul 29

Broxton and Navarro and what a difference six years does (and doesn’t) make


Jeff Lewis/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro in 2005.

Six years ago tonight, on a Friday, the Dodgers began a weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 46-56 record, then as they are now 10 games under .500. That day, the team made two transactions.

Purchased the contract of RHP Jonathan Broxton from Double-A Jacksonville and designated RHP Scott Erickson for assignment; Recalled C Dioner Navarro from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned C Mike Rose to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Jonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro. Today, those two names bring up mixed emotions, to say the least.

But six years ago, making their Dodger debuts, they heralded a new era of promise for a downtrodden team: Broxton, the first of a heralded group of Dodger minor leaguers to reach the bigs; Navarro, a 21-year-old catching prodigy acquired in trade.

From Dodger Thoughts, July 29, 2005:

… The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Navarro, still only 21, has battled some physical issues this season – according to Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun, Navarro was 2 for 18 since being activated from the disabled list July 18 – but has played 75 games overall for AAA Las Vegas, with an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .390. Offensively, he is lacking power for now – but down the road, some may catch up with him. Though his professional high in home runs is only eight, he did hit 31 doubles in 2003 at age 19, split between A and AA ball. Navarro’s biggest strength is his strike zone command – 38 walks against 24 strikeouts. Defensively, he is obviously more promising than Jason Phillips, but we’ll see if the Dodger pitchers still need to hold runners on better.

Broxton, four months younger than Navarro but six inches taller and around 50-100 pounds heavier, has been a stud ever since he became a second-round pick for the Dodgers in 2002. Averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a career ERA of 3.14 entering this season – primarly as a starter – Broxton has recently been used out of the bullpen for AA Jacksonville in anticipation of the Dodgers needing his help. In 28 games (15 in relief), Broxton has a 3.36 ERA and in 91 innings, has allowed 77 hits (just four home runs) and 29 walks while striking out 99. As a reliever, he has struck out 28 in 19 innings and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, which also published a quote from an American League scout praising both Broxton’s fastball and “power curve.”

Broxton becomes the third home-grown player on the Dodgers 25-man roster, joining Jason Repko and Steve Schmoll (assuming neither is sent down). …

Yes, you could say the youth movement was just getting underway.

In the game, Navarro started for the Dodgers, batting for the first time an inning after left fielder Ricky Ledee hit a three-run home run, and reached first on an infield single. He later struck out, grounded out and walked.

Broxton, also 21, replaced Brad Penny in the top of the sixth inning with the Dodgers leading, 5-4, and had mixed results. He gave up singles to David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez, then reared back and struck out Albert Pujols, who had homered the inning before. Broxton wild-pitched the runners to second and third base, prompting an intentional walk to Jim Edmonds. With the bases loaded and one out, John Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, before Broxton struck out Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

Because the tying run scored, Broxton was charged with a blown save in a game that gave him no chance of actually recording a save. It was these kinds of no-upside blown saves that would skew his save percentage for years and help others make the case that he was unfit to close. Despite this, Broxton did become one of the top relief pitchers in the National League – just as one of many pieces of evidence, only six relievers in the majors had a lower OPS allowed than Broxton from 2006-09, and two of those are going to the Hall of Fame – but we’re well past that debate now, with him unlikely to pitch much more than a few more innings as a Dodger, and others like Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen stepping forward.

Navarro would be supplanted much sooner, replaced in May 2006 by Russell Martin after a combination of sluggish defense and injury. Navarro came back to Los Angeles this season after a long absence, fraught with professional and personal struggles, but it’s now a celebration when his batting average breaks .200.

Somehow, both players are surprisingly close over the hill at age 27, even perilously close to the end of their careers if they don’t reverse fortune. It fits right in with a Dodger team that has tumbled off a cliff in 2011. We’ve come full circle and gotten dizzy in the process.

The next generation of Dodgers beckons – the generation that will try to revive this team. But it’s impossible to fathom how it will play out. Broxton, Navarro, Martin, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, on and on and on – so many ups and downs.  I can’t tell if I feel that six years is long or short.

And then there’s this: That same morning, in the July 29, 2005 issue of Variety, Dave McNary published the following story about the Dodgers, in their second year of ownership under Frank and Jamie McCourt:

… Frank McCourt, the Boston-born Dodgers owner … strolls around the stadium as though he was the mayor of a small New England town. He’s not the landlord, he’s a host, eager to welcome people to his party.

Under the O’Malleys, many Angelenos felt the Dodgers represented “downtown.” McCourt has broader ambitions. … He wants Westsiders as much as Echo Park locals, and he believes the best way to get both of them is to make sure Hollywood feels welcome.

A year after buying the team in early 2004, McCourt added 300 seats to the Dugout Club and expanded the restaurant. McCourt and his wife, Jaime, attend most home games, where they escort club guests to a martini bar, as well as stands that offer prime rib, fajitas, salads and, of course hot dogs, all free of charge to box holders and other guests.

A seat in the club runs an all-inclusive $400 (booze is extra), but one of McCourt’s biggest reasons for undertaking $20 million in upgrades was to attract people who may never pay at all.

McCourt wants to see the same sort of wall-to-wall celeb lineup who attends Lakers games. He’s well on the way. On a recent evening, when the Dodgers suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco Giants, club attendees included celebs Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Robert Wuhl and Alyssa Milano; sports agents Scott Boras and Dennis Gilbert; former players Dave Winfield and Bill Buckner; and Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda.

Other regulars include Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Tom Hanks, Pat Sajak, Penny Marshall, Mary Hart, Wayne Gretzky and Peter Chernin.

The McCourts’ four sons also are conspicuous, with most of the credit for bringing Hollywood into the Dodgers’ fold going to Drew McCourt, the low-key marketing director who decided to work for his dad after getting an astrophysics degree from Columbia U. The 23-year-old has been charged with glad-handing Hollywood studios, agencies, top-tier producers and music industry execs, luring them into premium seats by promising that most elusive commodity, exclusivity.

Still, in wooing Hollywood, the McCourts have a tough job. As one of the few sports facilities built in the 1960s that has aged with some grace, even minor changes to Dodger Stadium provoke anxiety among devoted fans — many of whom would never consider paying $400 for a seat.

“We’ve got an asset that’s very unique within the baseball world,” says Drew McCourt, who grew up going to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. “But we don’t take it for granted that Hollywood’s going to show up. We have to make this area attractive enough so the team’s performance doesn’t really matter whether people show up.”

Six years. Six positively head-spinning years.

Jul 20

Forget it, Jake: It’s Kershawtown


Kyle Terada/US PresswireClayton Kershaw retired 25 of 29 batters, striking out 12, in eight shutout innings, outdueling Tim Lincecum, who allowed a seventh-inning home run into McCovey Cove by Dioner Navarro. Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth to save the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory. Navarro (who had two throwing errors today) has 11 RBI all season, but this was the third time in 2011 that he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger win. If not for three Dodger errors, the Giants would not have gotten any runners past second base today.
Jun 25

June 25 game chat

Via the Dodger press notes, an update on Dioner Navarro’s defensive feat Friday: “According to Elias, the last catcher with two or more pickoffs and more than two runners caught stealing in a game was the Yankees’ Ron Hassey, who accomplished the feat on June 8, 1986 against the Orioles. Navarro leads the Majors with four catcher pickoffs in 25 games behind the plate and ranks fourth in the NL (min. 20 games) with a 30.0 caught stealing percentage (6 CS/14 SB).”

Jun 24

Dodgers calling out all Angels on basepaths but lose


Mark J. Terrill/APThe defensive stylings of Dioner Navarro, here tagging out Bobby Abreu, were not enough to keep the Dodgers in the lead.

In the first inning tonight, the Angels’ Maicer Izturis was caught stealing and Bobby Abreu was thrown out at home. In the second inning, Mark Trumbo was picked off first by Navarro and Jeff Mathis was thrown out at third. In the third inning, Erick Aybar was picked off first by Navarro. In the sixth inning, Vernon Wells was caught stealing.

Dioner Navarro became the first catcher to be officially recorded with two pickoff throws and two caught stealings in the same game, according to Vin Scully on the Prime Ticket broadcast. And still the Dodgers were down 5-3 heading into the eighth inning.

That’s because Rubby De La Rosa, while throwing heat, allowed four walks, six hits, a double and two home runs. And that’s because, while Matt Kemp was hitting a two-run homer and Andre Ethier was going 3 for 4, the Dodgers were 2 for their first 12 with runners in scoring position.

Meanwhile, Marcus Thames left tonight’s game in the second inning with a strained left calf, raising the possibility that the Dodgers will soon see the return of Jerry Sands (.941 OPS in Albuquerque in June) or the debut of Trayvon Robinson (1.173 OPS in June) in left field if Thames goes on the disabled list.

There’s also talk that Rafael Furcal could move to second base when he returns from the disabled list so that Dee Gordon can stay at short, but I’m not convinced that Gordon doesn’t have a trip to Triple-A left in him.

Update: It got no better for the Dodgers, who gave up three runs (one unearned) in the final two innings of an 8-3 defeat. The Angels retired the final 11 batters for the Dodgers, who went hitless after the fifth inning.

Jun 20

Kershaw outdoes himself again, 4-0


Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesClayton Kershaw

That blankety-blank Clayton Kershaw – and I mean that in a good way.

As in, that Clayton Kershaw blankety-blanked the Detroit Tigers tonight, 4-0, for his second two-hit shutout in the past three weeks and, in his 99th career start, the top performance of his career.

On May 29, Kershaw struck out 10 in his 116-pitch two-hitter of Florida. Tonight, Kershaw struck out 11 members of one of the better offenses in baseball – including all three batters in the ninth inning – to complete his 112-pitch outing. The 23-year-old leads the majors in strikeouts with 117.

Kershaw faced only 29 batters in the game – with a tip of the cap to Dioner Navarro’s perfect pickoff of Ryan Raburn at third base in the third inning – matching Sandy Koufax in Game 5 of the 1965 World Series for the quickest shutout and quickest victory over an American League team in Dodger history, regular season and postseason.

Kershaw also gave himself some breathing room in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out, two-run single to double the Dodger lead. Combined with his third-inning walk, Kershaw raised his 2011 on-base percentage to .333 – better than opponents are doing against him this year.

Since the bumpy blown leads of Cincinnati and Colorado, Kershaw has pitched 16 innings and allowed one run on six hits and three walks while striking out 15. And the Dodgers have thrown back-to-back shutouts, reducing their deficit in the National League West to seven games,

The game-winning RBI went to Juan Uribe, batting second tonight ahead of Andre Ethier as manager Don Mattingly tries to jump-start his season. Uribe didn’t see many fastballs in his first trip to the plate but belted a 3-2 changeup from Brad Penny for his fourth homer of the year and first in more than 100 at-bats since April 29.

Update: The following is from ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Tigers:
- Kershaw went to his slider as his out pitch. He threw 21 sliders for the game, 16 of which came with two strikes. All 12 outs he got on his slider came with two strikes, including a career-best 10 strikeouts (all swinging).
- Tigers hitters couldn’t lay off his slider. They swung at 17 of the 21 (81 pct) he threw, including 14 of 16 (87.5 pct) with two strikes. No Kershaw opponent has swung more often at his slider in his career (min 3 sliders).
- Kershaw had good command of his slider, keeping it primarily down in the zone. He threw 10 sliders down in the zone, all with two strikes. Tigers hitters swung at eight of them and missed on seven.

Clayton Kershaw’s Slider
Monday vs Tigers

Pitches 21
Swings 17
Misses 11<<
Hits 0
>>10 strikeouts (career high)

From Elias:
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw two-hit the Tigers in a 4-0 win, posting his third career shutout. Kershaw finished his shutout in style by striking out the side in the 9th. According to Elias, the last Dodgers starter to finish a shutout by striking out the side in the 9th was Sandy Koufax in his perfect game on Sept. 9, 1965 against the Cubs.

Kershaw’s performance Monday tied him for the second-highest game score this season.

Highest Game Score – 2011 Season
June 14 Justin Verlander 94
Monday Clayton Kershaw 93<<
May 22 James Shields 93
May 29 Clayton Kershaw 92
Apr. 14 Cliff Lee 92
>>Kershaw: career best

It also ties for the fifth-highest ever in interleague play (behind a perfecto, a no-no, and a pair of 1-hitters).

Highest Game Score, interleague play (all-time)
David Cone, NYY 07/18/99 vs MTL 97 (PG)
Justin Verlander, DET 06/12/07 vs MIL 95 (NH)
Chris Carpenter, STL 06/14/05 at TOR 94
Mark Mulder, OAK 07/06/01 at ARI 94
Clayton Kershaw, LAD 06/20/11 vs DET 93
James Shields, TB 05/22/11 at FLA 93
Pedro Martinez, MTL 06/14/97 vs DET 93

Jun 19

Lose on Sunday? Never


Alex Gallardo/APWinning streak: Javy Guerra celebrates the Dodgers fourth consecutive Sunday win.

Hiroki Kuroda – seven shutout innings, lowering his ERA to a team-best 3.07. Yep.

Dioner Navarro, game-winning homer in the bottom of the eighth inning … huh?

Some might not call it a rout, but all I know is the Dodgers scored infinitely more runs than Houston today. How much more one-sided can things get?

If you can believe it, the Dodgers have gained 1 1/2 games on first-place San Francisco in the National League West standings in the past four days. Strange journey.

May 28

Spirits in the night: Dodgers 3, Marlins 2

Mark J. Terrill/APDioner Navarro doesn’t mind this collision at home.

At the end, it was less a victory than an exorcism.

The anti-homer curse against James Loney – gone. Andre Ethier’s near-month-long power outage – gone.

And the electrified way the Dodgers poured out of the dugout after Dioner Navarro’s game-winning pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth gave them a 3-2 victory over Florida, the way Matt Kemp came over not just to praise Navarro but to bury him in his arms as well, showed a group of players keen and desperate to get about a thousand monkeys off their backs.

The easy argument is that the Dodgers have stopped caring, in the wake of their obvious flaws, ceaseless injuries and exhausting off-the-field drama. None of those issues have gone away, but if they didn’t care about winning, they wouldn’t have been so over the moon about a victory that only raised their record to 23-29.

They have been fighting – other teams as well as themselves. There were the two rallies against San Francisco last week, followed by the shocking, Russ Mitchell-led comeback against the White Sox. They were one strike away from victory against Houston on Monday, then lost in the bottom of the ninth, then did so again Wednesday.

They haven’t won a game by more than two runs since May 17. They haven’t won a game by more than three runs since May 10. They’ve still only won nine games in a month that has been uphill since it started with a 7-0 loss to San Diego.

They can’t even claim the most exhilarating win in the National League West on Friday – finishing third behind Arizona rallying from a 6-0 deficit against the Astros and the Giants riding a grand slam from a player in his first major-league game to a comeback victory over Milwaukee.

They just suit up with the understanding that every game counts.

When Ethier’s pinch-hit single gave the Dodgers a short-lived lead in Houston on Monday, Clayton Kershaw roared in elation. When Ethier hit his home run in the sixth inning, Aaron Miles lifted Jamey Carroll so high, he nearly threw him over the dugout. When Navarro delivered what was only the seventh hit all year by the Dodgers with the bases loaded, you’d have thought they’d broken the bank in Vegas.

They care as much as you do, if not more. This is a team dying to make something happen, if only it can.

Apr 25

Dodgers activate Navarro, option Ellis

When Dioner Navarro went on the disabled list near the end of Spring Training, A.J. Ellis did all you expect A.J. Ellis to do: 19 plate appearances, four singles, four walks (.421 on-base percentage), no extra-base hits.

For that, the Dodgers put Ellis on the Wolverine up to Annandale today, while Navarro comes off the disabled list to start earning that million bucks. He’ll back up starting catcher Rod Barajas.

Meanwhile, Juan Uribe is still nursing his sore quad, and Casey Blake is getting a day off after playing seven days in a row (10 for 27, two homers, six walks, 10 runs), so today’s Dodger lineup features both Aaron Miles and Ivan De Jesus Jr.

As Steve Dilbeck of the Times notes, the Dodgers’ offensive resurgence of the past week coincided with facing, for the most part, less-than-elite pitchers. Florida poses a tougher challenge this week, although the Dodgers will miss Josh Johnson (1.06 ERA, 22 baserunners, 33 strikeouts in 34 innings).

Florida is one of only four teams in the National League that are more than a game over .500. The Dodgers are one of seven teams within a game of .500.

For your pregame enjoyment: Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven passes along this look at Jackie Robinson’s 1938 Muir High School yearbook.

Mar 25

Navarro likely to be out until May

Dioner Navarro will be on the Dodger disabled list when the 2011 regular season begins and likely remain out until the end of April because of a right oblique tear. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

… Mattingly said A.J. Ellis and Hector Gimenez will compete during the handful of days left before Opening Day for the right to hold down the backup catching job until Navarro returns. But Mattingly also hinted that Barajas might draw almost all of the starts while Navarro is out. Although Barajas is 35 and Mattingly had planned to give him regular rest, that rest presumably isn’t as important in April.

“We’re looking at Rod as the primary guy,” Mattingly said. ” I know I have to keep him strong, and I know he is an older guy. But I love his leadership. Earlier in the season, it isn’t as big a deal. As you get more into summer, he will have more games under his belt and you’re getting into some heat, so really, you’re trying to keep him from breaking down.”

It seems more than safe to bet that Gimenez will now make the Opening Day roster, which is shaping up thusly:

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda

Relief pitchers (7): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Kenley Jansen, Blake Hawksworth, Mike MacDougal, Scott Elbert or Ron Mahay

Starting lineup (8): Rod Barajas, James Loney, Jamey Carroll or Ivan De Jesus Jr., Rafael Furcal, Juan Uribe, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons or Xavier Paul

Bench (4): Hector Gimenez, Marcus Thames, Tony Gwynn Jr., Aaron Miles

Fighting for two spots: John Ely, Tim Redding, Ramon Troncoso, Lance Cormier, Travis Schlichting, Juan Castro, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Jay Gibbons/Xavier Paul, Trent Oeltjen, A.J. Ellis

Mar 24

Dioner Navarro to play ‘MRI of Fortune’

From Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday’s Cactus League game against the Colorado Rockies and sent for an MRI exam after feeling pain in his right side taking a swing during a morning session of batting practice.

Results of the MRI aren’t expected until later in the day or possibly Friday. But with the season opener now just a week away, Navarro’s injury at least raises the possibility that he could become the fourth Dodgers player expected to begin the season on the disabled list, where he would join pitchers Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland and third baseman Casey Blake. …

* * *

Rockies at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Mar 16

State of the Opening Day roster: Update


Jake Roth/US PresswireDespite a 7.23 ERA last year with St. Louis, Mike MacDougal has taken advantage of Dodger injuries to carve out a chance at a roster spot.

On the last off day before the start of the season, this seems like a good time to check in on how the Dodger 25-man Opening Day roster is shaping up.

On track (18):

Starting pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly

Relief pitchers (5): Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Matt Guerrier, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen

Catchers (1): Rod Barajas

Infielders (4): James Loney, Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal, Jamey Carroll

Outfielders (4): Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames

Likely (3):

1) Casey Blake, 3B: The latest news on Blake sounds about as good as one might have expected – inflammation with no evidence of a muscle strain.  So while anything could happen, we won’t assume that he’ll be on the disabled list March 31.

2) Mike MacDougal, RP: A 0.00 spring ERA, veteran’s moxie and all the positive things people are saying about him in the press make MacDougal this year’s most likely prize off the scrap heap.

3) Dioner Navarro, C: A.J. Ellis can still be optioned to the minors, so we’ll put him aside. Though Hector Gimenez presents an alternative, Navarro seems safe.

Roster spot battles (4):

Norm Hall/Getty ImagesAn .847 spring OPS has helped make Hector Gimenez a longshot as opposed to a no-shot.

1) Jay Gibbons vs. Xavier Paul vs. Trent Oeltjen, OF, vs. Hector Gimenez, C/1B: Gibbons’ spring has been a nightmare, to the extent that Tony Gwynn Jr. might already have passed him in the pecking order for playing time. Xavier Paul, seemingly healthy and performing better as the month goes on, is now adding to the pressure while the eyesight-plagued Gibbons tries to solve his vision problems. A third-party candidate is Trent Oeltjen, who has been hitting all spring – and we’ll even leave open the possibility that Gimenez could take this spot instead of a sixth outfielder.  Chances: Gibbons 45%, Paul 35%, Oeltjen 10%, Gimenez 10%.

2) Aaron Miles vs. Ivan De Jesus Jr. vs. Justin Sellers vs. Juan Castro, IF: A veteran has the automatic edge when you’re talking backup infielder, so it seems safe to knock out De Jesus and Sellers, neither of whom have seized the day. Miles has had a better spring than Castro and is also centuries younger. Castro has that Brad Ausmus-like zen quality that Ned Colletti admires, but Miles has sufficient experience to fill the role. Chances: Miles 80%, Castro 10%, De Jesus 5%, Sellers 5%.

3) + 4) Ron Mahay vs. Scott Elbert vs. Ramon Troncoso vs. Lance Cormier, RP, vs. John Ely vs. Tim Redding, SP, vs. position player: These two final spots seem very much up for grabs at this point, compounded by the uncertainty over whether the Dodgers will start the year with four or five starting pitchers, and whether they’ll start with 11 pitchers overall or 12.

If they keep a fifth starter, it’s still an open battle. Both Redding and Ely can be sent to the minors, though the difference is if Redding is placed on the major-league roster, he would then have to clear waivers before he could go to Albuquerque (once, say, Vicente Padilla or Jon Garland was healthy). The Dodgers can yank Ely up and down this year at will.

Both Ely and Redding started the spring excellently, then faltered (like every other Dodger starter in the past week). Ely is on the upside of his career but with something to prove; Redding is on the downside of his career with something to prove. My guess is that even if Ely wins the job, the Dodgers won’t want him to lose his rhythm by pitching in long relief during the opening days of the season – meaning he would start the season in the minors and then come up April 12 when he is needed. I’m not sure they’d have those reservations with Redding.

Among the lefthanders, Mahay finally had a decent inning Tuesday, though the four batters he faced had 19 career major-league homers. Still, it’s hard to imagine that, short of a 180-degree turnaround, the Dodgers are ready to rely on Elbert, who has walked nine of 20 batters he has faced this spring.

Troncoso has outpitched both lefties, though I’m not sure the Dodgers are convinced he’s all the way back from his 2010 struggles. If he were, he and MacDougal would exchange places. Lance Cormier has gotten little attention while throwing four innings and allowing seven hits while striking out one, but he remains in the running.

And then there’s the chance the Dodgers go with an 11-man staff and keep six guys on the bench. Gimenez, anyone?

If the Dodgers were making their final cuts today, I’d predict they keep two relievers at the outset and fly Ely to San Francisco on April 12. Chances: Troncoso 45%, Mahay 45%, Cormier 30%, Ely 30%, Redding 25%, position player 20%, Elbert 5%.